Friday, May 30, 2008

Bluebell rides again

For the most part I'm a pretty self-sufficient gal, but the last bastions of helplessness for me are gadgets and things that go. I'm lousy with both. Once in college a boyfriend taught me how to change the oil in my car, but I forgot. Later that week. It's a good thing Jim is both a gadget geek and all-around handy man. I wash and fold his underwear, he fixes things; it's a win-win arrangement.

Two years ago for an anniversary present, Jim bought me a new road bike online. I was training for a triathlon and had been borrowing a friend's beat-up mountain bike, so I was thrilled with my new ride. Of course, Jim had to assemble it for me. I put together a compact repair kit in a nifty little pouch strapped under my seat, but have never actually had to use it.

I haven't been riding in the last two weeks because Bluebell finally got a flat tire. Yeah, I gave my bike a name. I come from a proud heritage of people who name their wheels; what can I say? My first bike, a graduation present from my dad when I went away to college, was Trusty Rusty (the color of the paint even before it got left out in the snow). But I digress. So after procrastinating for about a week, I went online and found a couple how-to websites with instructions for changing a flat, including one showing how to do it without tools.

After another week of procrastination, I was really starting to miss riding. Sufficiently motivated by the gorgeous weather we've been having and the need for some alone time after spending all day with a teething baby, tonight I finally hauled my bike into the kitchen, grabbed my laptop, repair kit and tools (just in case). My bike doesn't have quick release levers for the wheels, so I had to use a 15mm box wrench, and I used the levers, but only a little. And I did it. All by myself.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: thrift takes time

A few years ago I attended a workshop on being thrifty taught by my friend Betsy Ann. It was so good I asked for a copy of her lecture notes, which she graciously shared. I'm passing on a few of her words of wisdom that really resonated with me.

Thrift is not something we can quantify; it is an objective idea. One woman’s thrift can very well be another’s extravagance.

Thrift operates on a continuum because our circumstances change and we change with them. At one end is buying everything in sight at the highest price, having everything—and at the other end, spending almost nothing and having nothing.

Thrift carries with it an expenditure of time. If [it takes] time you just don’t have, don’t do [it]. But there are some things that don’t take much time, and so you may be able to change your habits and live in a thriftier manner without compromising what is important to you.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Head games

Earlier this week I found an online poetry critique community that looks incredibly intriguing. Ever since I checked it out, I've been playing head games with myself: can I make the time commitment to do more revision of my work and also commit to giving honest consideration and constructive comments about others' poetry—when I'm feeling slightly overwhelmed with real life? Am I even qualified to offer constructive criticism to other writers? Am I a good enough writer to be a "serious poet"? Can I be a "serious poet" if I wasn't a lit major? Is it really possible for me to be published? Why do I even want to get published anyway? Why is this pushing all my buttons?

For as long as I've been writing, I haven't done much in the way of long-term revision on my work, unless it was required for a school assignment. Maybe a week of off-and-on tweaking at most. I think that's one of the things holding me back from being a better writer. I've always wanted to be published, and if I'm ever going to get there, this seems like the next logical step, joining a group that will force me to refine and improve my craft. The thought is both exciting and scary, and I've been hesitant to contact the group because there are several poets involved whose blogs I lurk around and whose writing I very much admire. I feel like a geek approaching the cool kids' table with my lame brown bagged lunch, too paralyzed to try and sound casual as I ask, "Can I come hang with you guys?"

But after working from this week's prompt from Writers Island ("the return"), I'm starting to think I should conquer my fears and ask to join the group. I like what I've written so far, but even though it feels unfinished, I'm not sure where or what to add.


I shouldn’t have lived looking over my shoulder
wasted all my wishes on wanting to return to
dark warmth secure in its perfect nurture
craved comfort of steady pulse lulling me
a small island calm in a soothing sea but

like Lot’s wife I longed too much for what I lost
kept turning back to memories instead
of facing cold unforgiving truth
a shrill storming world its waves
surging on my soft sandy shores after

shedding tears enough for my own pillar
of salt I finally looked inward to find
my true beacon was able to see you did
what you knew to do and while I couldn’t
set my compass by you I could love you.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tomato dreams

Did I ever mention I have a passion for tomatoes? Far too long now I've settled for the sallow, flavorless flesh of storebought fruits, except for those rare and precious occasions when a friend with a garden shares. During one of our last summers in Bellevue, I experimented with container gardening but had a difficult time finding a spot near our apartment with enough continuous sunlight. Some neighbor kids stole the few good tomatoes I grew. After that I just gave up.

In 2006, our first full summer in Ellensburg, I had high hopes for a modest garden in our spacious backyard. I planted four tomato plants, a row each of broccoli, cauliflower and peas, a small herb garden and a half-dozen strawberry plants. Unfortunately, I soon discovered the elm trees shaded most of our yard and few parts of it had continuous sun for the entire day. Good for staying cool, but not so good for my poor garden, which produced a few small, sickly looking tomatoes (still much tastier than anything from the supermarket) and a scant cup full of peas. The broccoli and cauliflower never produced. Even worse, the one sunny spot where I had planted the herb garden and strawberries was overrun with ants, which devoured most of the berries and ate holes in my basil.

After my initial failure, I reevaluated and hatched a plan for rearranging the sunny bed with the strawberries and herbs to make room for some tomato plants. When summer 2007 came, though, I was far too busy growing a baby to worry about my garden. Which brings us to this year.

A few months ago I made a big batch of fresh pico de gallo to go with tortilla chips for a girls' game night I was hosting. For someone who claimed (until very recently) to hate cilantro, Jim went crazy about it. Ever since, he's been saying we need to grow some tomatoes so he can make fresh salsa. Really good fresh salsa. So once again I reassessed what went wrong in our garden in 2006 to see what viable options we had. Then what appeared to be a great opportunity presented itself: Jim's dad offered to give us a few rows in their garden, which has full sun exposure all day. We got really excited and purchased a half-flat of eight tomato starts of different varieties, as well as some onion, chive, basil, rosemary and dill starts. I also grabbed some seed packets for cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini and watermelon (Jimmy's particular request).

This is a busy week for me, but I set aside Wednesday to go to my in-laws and do all the planting. The weather here this week has been sunny but breezy, in the upper 50s and lower 60s most days. It was windy but fair, so after lunch I bundled the kids, plants and my gardening gear in the car and we headed over to Grandpa Jim and Grandma Gail's. They live up in the north end of town where the wind comes whipping down the valley from the mountains. As soon as I opened the car, my baseball hat blew off my head, and Audrey's blanket kept blowing away. My father-in-law showed us to the garden and pointed out the rows we could use. The wind was blowing hard and steady and I realized our rows had no shelter from constant gusting. Just in carrying my plants out to the plot, I saw how the wind beat them and started to wither the once-plump green leaves. I felt bad about it at first, but I really didn't want to waste the money and time I was going to invest, so I quickly re-thought where I could plant at home. Jim and Gail didn't take it personally; Gail had lost some of her cucumbers, just planted a few days ago, and already blasted by the wind.

So I packed everything back up, headed home, and dug up some empty laundry detergent tubs stacked in the basement. I didn't have as many tubs as tomato starts, so I weeded out my old herb garden and planted some between the sage and where the strawberry plants were already thriving. The tubs, once filled with soil, a tomato start and a cage, are still light enough for me to move around to keep them in the sun most of the day. At first I thought, what a pain to have move around the containers... for all of five seconds. Then I started thinking about running out to my garden on a summer evening, picking some greens and vegetables, making a big fresh salad for dinner, and biting into one of my own tender, succulent red tomatoes. I'm going to water, rotate, research homemade ant repellants, and pray, pray, pray for good tomatoes.

It will be worth it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: best bargains

While it doesn't fall strictly under my purview of emergency preparedness, I've wound up as a sort of de facto member of our ward Relief Society's enrichment committee. On Thursday night we've got an enrichment meeting that will be focusing, appropriately for this time of year, on gardening. My contribution is to prepare a little booklet of "tightwad tips" for the ladies to take home with them. This is right up my alley; I'm a long-time penny-pincher.

It was a fun assignment for me because I love the chance to do creative layout and design on my computer, as well as the chance to share the many money-saving tips I've amassed over the years. Some of the tips in the booklet are ones I collected as a teen and have been using as long as I can remember, others I've picked over the years, and a few I found just recently.

Not long ago Motherhood for Dummies visited my blog, and when I checked out hers, she had some great tips for saving money, which I included in the booklet along with the others. All this focus on frugality got me thinking: maybe some of my on-line friends and family might enjoy these tips, too. So I proudly present a new feature at chicklegirl: Tightwad Tuesday. For my first official tightwad post, here's a list of eight of the best bargains around (because by now you should know how I feel about bargains... and the number eight). Please feel free to leave your tips for great bargains, too.

Best Bargains. Ever.

  1. The public library. Where information, knowledge, and self-education—and even time on a computer using the internet—are available at no cost.
  2. Toothpaste and dental floss. A lot of toothpaste and dental floss can be purchased for the price of a filling.
  3. Thinness. Because one simply eats less.
  4. A 42 cent postage stamp. The US Postal Service will carry any volume of information under one ounce thousands of miles for the same price.
  5. Paper. The best present for a child is a pencil and a piece of paper.
  6. Walking. It burns calories, gets you where you want to go, and no special equipment or costly memberships are required.
  7. Public places. Places of interest that are free and open to all.
  8. A single zucchini seed. Gardening saves on your grocery bill. Especially if you like zucchini.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Better late than never

First, let me apologize for being two days late with my little video of the kids for the grandmas who live far away.

Now, for the lame excuses: I tried to record a video to post yesterday, but found after the kids went to bed and I had time to sit down and work my video editing magic, our cute little video clip didn't get recorded. Jim asked me a few questions about what I had done and then explained it didn't work because I hadn't pushed the record button. Just when I thought I was so techno-savvy.

This morning I tried again. As you'll see, I still have a lot to learn about our camcorder. A lot. Somehow, a cute little segment at the end of the clip where Jimmy says "Happy Mother's Day!" got lost. At any rate, happy belated Mother's Day to Nana and Grammy Lo from all of us. We love and miss you both!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy mother's day

It's late in the game, but before the sun goes down on this Mother's Day, I wanted to express my gratitude to all the mothers in my life: my own Mom, my step-mom Lo, all of my sisters who are moms (whether to their own children, foster children or nieces and nephews), my many good friends who are moms, and all the generations of mothers and grandmothers who have gone before me and woven the fabric of my family into what it is today.

Today was busy for me. We all slept in and then Jim cooked a delicious breakfast. As soon as I finished eating, I put a roast, onions and mushrooms in my crockpot. Audrey is cutting her eyeteeth right now so after that I rocked her to sleep for an extra little nap. Then it was time to start getting ready for church (which takes a long time because everyone around here except Jim moves slow on Sunday mornings and I forgot to do our ironing last night).

Suddenly it was 12:30 and I hadn't eaten lunch, wasn't dressed, hadn't peeled carrots and potatoes to put in with the roast, and hadn't gotten Audrey up from her nap! So we were a bit late to church, but the only real drama came when Jimmy refused to sing in the special program for moms because he was worried about it being "too loud" up in the choir seats where the kids had to sit for the program. I told him it was okay for him to sit with us and he could just sing to me at home.

Right after we got home at 4:15, I fed Audrey and put her down for her afternoon nap, and then started to get a plate of dinner ready to take to a lady from church who just had surgery this past week. I had forgotten to turn my crockpot up to high, so the carrots and potatoes were underdone and I had to zap them in the microwave to have them ready on time to deliver.

As I was waiting for the elevator to go up to Margie's apartment, I looked across the lobby and saw some potted plants on a console. The pots were shaped like a trio of brown owls; very kitschy, probably circa early 1960s. It made me smile and tear up for a moment because my Grandma Mary (my Dad's mom) loved owls and used to have some almost like that in her living room. It was a gift, in a moment of trying to do something kind for someone else, to feel connected to Grandma again, however briefly. And then I was off and running again, up to Margie's, then back home to have dinner. Maybe someday I'll actually take the whole day off from cooking and slow down for Mother's Day. Maybe not.

Oh, and I want Mom and Lo to know that I will have a special video clip for them of the kids for Mother's Day. It will just be a day late.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Learning to crawl

Two things occur to me as I watch you

spine arching twisting rolling
trying to coordinate with
arms pushing pulling pivoting
trying to coordinate with
legs bending flexing kicking

and again

roll twist arch
pull push pivot
kick flex bend

and again

roll pull bend
twist push flex
arch pivot kick

and again

roll push bend
twist pivot kick
arch pull flex

you don’t give up
my floor is filthy.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Thirteen years

Today Jim gave me a card with Count Von Count on the front and the following inside:

Thirteen is unlucky,
or so some would say.
All black cats, dark portents,
and grief on the way.

But our thirteen is lucky,
and I'll tell you why,
because you're still my gal,
and I'm still your guy.

My heart had no need to be melted, but this would have done the job. Te amo, chico.

Monday, May 05, 2008


This week the prompt at Read Write Poem challenged poets to "see things from a fresh perspective" by writing sci-fi poetry. I was particularly intrigued by the idea of scifaiku. And it's not that I didn't take the prompt seriously; it's just my inspiration came from my own love of dogs and also seeing poems about dogs that Paisley and Clare had written recently. So here's my first attempt at scifaiku:

If Dogs Ruled Earth

Humans at other
end of the leash in bone-strewn
world full of hydrants.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

A meme and a poem

I've been trying not to think too much about poetry for the last couple of days (NaPoWriMo burnout), but this morning I remembered Writers Island posts prompts on Friday, and so I went out to take a look. This week's prompts are "identity" and "ferocious". I was eating breakfast but right away got a good idea of where I wanted to go and within a half hour I finished it. And felt really good about it!

Then I sat back and wondered why I had such a difficult time with NaPoWriMo. If I could characterize my experience with one word it would be disappointment. I'm disappointed I didn't do more reading of favorite and unfamiliar poets as I had planned. I'm disappointed I didn't get out to other participants' blogs and websites to read and comment on their poetry. I'm disappointed it felt so labored to write a poem on a daily basis. January at Poet Mom posted a NaPoWriMo meme, and contemplating my answers helped me get to the bottom of the disappointment.

1. Number of poems written in April. 30.
2. Number of poems you’ll keep and revise. Hmm. Not sure. I don't have good a history of revising once I've set aside a poem. But I should start doing more of that, I think.
3. List the titles of your top three NaPoWriMo poems. My haiku Sunday; Aunt Nancy's Paddle; Icarus Considers
4. List your three least favorite NaPoWriMo poems. Slipstream; American sentences; Signs and Wonders
5. Favorite line from one of your NaPoWriMo poems. "to laugh in the gaping jaw/the hollow sockets of my own mortality"
6. Favorite poem by a NaPoWriMo participant. The De Chiriku, by mariachristina
7. What surprised you most about writing a poem a day? How guilty I felt about taking the time to hammer out and rework an entire poem in one day. Even the short ones. I had so much going on, and I felt guilty about spending time on poetry, even just reading other people's poetry. Also the pressure; it was hard to feel like I HAD to get a poem done each day, and some days I procrastinated just to rebel against the pressure. I noticed I do well writing under pressure when it doesn't have to be creative, just straightforward. But poetry or other creative writing? I felt very forced trying to crank something out every single day. It was weird how this exercise pushed a lot of emotional buttons for me.
8. Now that you’ve started the momentum, what’s next? Taking it easy. Writing for fun. Finding balance between life and art.

Oh, and here's what I wrote this morning...

I’m Not a Good Girl Any More

I used to be a good girl, used to
take only burnt slices of bacon
iron cloth and hearts I hadn’t wrinkled
take self-righteous comfort in rejection’s purity
hold in pain, opinions, passions
only to lash out with acid tongue
when bile boiled over and
my carefully constructed identity imploded
I’m not good any more
I’m better.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Dishwasher delectation

Left: old, busted and leaking all over my kitchen floor
Right: new potscrubbing hotness

Thursday, May 01, 2008